After a really busy Easter Week loaded with work, I was able to take a short vacation. Three of my best girlfriends from Canada came to visit. As they have been to Costa Rica several times, we decided to be more adventurous this time and head to Nicaragua.
They really wanted to surf so our destinations in Nicaragua were mainly based on that. First stop was Rancho Santana, then Granada – one of Latin America’s oldest colonial cities and finally San Juan del Sur.
A couple of days before their arrival I told them that my car was still in the shop and we had to cross the border by foot as a rental car was waiting for us on the other side. Immediately, I got comments like “OMG… she is the only one that can make us do such things” or “What do you mean cross it by foot?” My response to them was: “Well, it’s better for us to have a driver that will take us to the border and get a car in Nicaragua instead of being in a bus that might have chickens as passengers.” Finally they agreed and off we went!
Obviously that nothing is simple when we travel, right before we left Playas del Coco I called the car rental company to tell them that within 2 hours we will be picking up the car. What did I get “Sorry Miss Sasu… we do not have your reservation” WHAT??? Finally after making some phone calls, the lady at National tells me “OK I will send a 4X4” It sounded good, so we left.
I hired a specific driver to come pick us up (knowing he had a big SUV) who showed up? A taxi driver with a sedan. Some OMG’s later we managed to fit 4 huge backpacks in the trunk and all 4 of us in the car. The whole ride to the border was very amusing as my friends were practicing their one word Spanish sentences Spanish with the driver. Most words were french words where they added an o or an a at the end! Hilarious!
As we arrive to the border we get attacked (not literally) by some dozen people who either want us to exchange money, buy cashews, sunglasses or something of the sort. Immediately we go to immigration, get our passports in order and start crossing the border. My friends were a little surprised, not to say freaked out about the procedure. They had a bit of a culture shock.
Once we were done with all the paper work, we found our car… well the car found us. Surprise number 2 – apparently in Nicaragua a 4X4 is not a SUV but a pick up truck. A little panic arose! How are we going to travel the country for a week in a pick up truck? Where will we put our backpacks? Are we going to get robbed if we have them in the back? Well… after all these questions, we finally decided to attach our backpacks together and hope for the best! lol
Up in the truck, now the new challenge was to figure out how we will get to Rancho Santana. We had some brief directions – nothing concrete. For those of you that have never traveled in Latin America – for some reasons, in some of these countries, there is no concept of street names. The directions go like this: From the highway take a left 100m from the gas station, continue for about 4km, then go south for another 700m and you should find the entrance to the yellow house on your left. Althougchallenging we were able to get to the Rancho about 1h30 later. That was the estimated time on their direction sheet so we did quite well.
The Rancho Santana is a very nice ocean front community with access to 5 beaches and over 2,700 acres of territory located on the south Pacific side of the country. It is not over developed yet, so there are not to many tourists. It was perfect for our 4 days stay. As we pulled in to the reception area to do the check in to the casita that we rented, we had the marvelous view of the beach club.
The casita was marvelous. I really liked the way it was divided. We had an open living area with a kitchen and two connecting bedrooms. It was spacious and perfect for the four of us. Some days we cooked and some others we dined at the Beach Club after our sunset drinks. Our favorites were Pina Coladas, Mohitos and Barefoot’ s Pinot Grigio. I could not believe they had it, do you remember my affair with him? lol
The beaches at the Rancho are superb. We spend our days playing in the waves and sun tanning but we also dedicated one to surfing. The four of us took a surfing class. Two of us are beginners so it was a little bit more challenging, but the other two looked almost like professional surfers! lol By the way, if you are a beginner there is no way you can surf Santana Beach, the waves are huge and the break is very strong. “Los Perros” beach is much more appropriate for us beginners.
After our 4 fabulous days at the Rancho it was time to jump back in our pick up truck and head to Granada for the day. The main roads in Nicaragua are in very good state but on some of them you see also other things than cars. So you have to be very careful. Among cars one of the most frequent one is the following:
In Granada we did a little tour of the city, mainly around the plaza and the pedestrian street. We also visited a cigar factory, but I will leave this for another post. This colonial city is full of colors, you pretty much have a rainbow of bright houses. It’s very cute!
We had a snack at the Garden Cafe, awesome food! Their menu consists of a diversity of wraps, sandwiches and salads for very affordable prices. The Cafe has a great ambiance and the staff is very friendly.
After lunch we headed to the port, or something similar to a port, on Lake Nicaragua (the biggest lake in Latin America) to hop on a boat to tour 80 of the 360 + islands. We hired a private boat driver for only $60 and off we went to see some mansions on these islands, a variety of birds and Monkey Island, where 3 spider monkeys and a white face monkey live.
Back to the pick-up truck and off we went to San Juan del Sur, a fisherman village on the Pacific side, where we spend a couple of days. In San Juan we found a quaint little hotel “Anamar” which had direct access to the beach, a restaurant and a pool. Nothing else to ask for! Also, the room was super cheap – $80 for the four of us.I love Nicaragua, you would never find such thing in Costa Rica. After this super busy day, more or less exhausted or shall I say excited, we treated ourselves with a massive seafood platter including lobster, jumbo shrimp, octopus, calamari and fresh fish and then Iguana Bar was right beside us, so we had to go have a couple of drinks, no? Drinks led to dancing and dancing let to drinks… we even paid tribute to one of our friends from back home with a little Greek dance… OMG… everyone was looking at us as if some Martians just landed in San Juan del Sur! All in all, we had a really busy day and had blast! I must say that one of my favorite things when I travel are these improvised days when we have no plan whatsoever and only go with the flow! Our next days included surfing, sun tanning and playing! 😉
Finally, I can say that my 6 days vacation in Nicaragua will never be forgotten! Beside the nice things we saw and the fun activities, the company was AWESOME!
Thank you chicas!!! Love you to pieces!!!